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Inspiring Thursday: Emma Watson

“Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality.” – Emma Watson, The Guardian.   

Emma Watson, the leading actress in the Harry Potter franchise, has grown to be a popular figure in the feminist arena since her “HeForShe” campaign speech on gender equality in 2014. She has recently coined the term “self-partnered” which refers to the idea of being happily single at 29.   

Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson was born on April 15, 1990 in Paris, France but was raised in England by two British lawyers. Watson attended the Stagecoach Theatre Arts school at Oxford where she studied performing acts which included acting, singing and dancing. When she was 9 years old, her theatre teachers suggested her to casting agents for the first Harry Potter movie, J.K. Rowling´s best seller in the early 2000s. After multiple auditions, Watson earned her role as Hermione Granger, Harry Potter´s smart female friend alongside Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter and Rupert Grint’s Ron Weasley.  

Her smashing debut in the film industry propelled the actress´ carrier to great heights. After the first Harry Potter which grossed more than $975 million and was nominated for three Academy awards and seven BAFTA Awards, she starred in Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield (2007), played the voice of Princess Pea in The Tale of Desperaux (2008), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), Sofia Coppola´s The Bling Ring (2013), This is the End (2013), Noah (2014), Beauty and the Beast (2017). Her work was also awarded 2013 People´s Choice Award, 2014 British Artist of the Year, and 2017 MTV Movie and TV Awards.   

Watson holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Brown University (2014). She also attended Oxford University for a short period as a visiting student. While in school, the actress dealt with bullying and pressure to finish the Harry Potter saga.  

In 2014, she was appointed UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. Shortly after, Watson gave a striking speech for the “HeForShe” campaign bringing to light her dedication to the cause of improving women´s rights and the need to redefine the concept of feminist to include men. While much praised by the media, Watson received criticism on her feminist work as insincere and was even name called “white feminist” due to her privileged position as a white British female actress. It has even been said that her feminism was “compatible with the bureaucracy of the UN and the requirements of a Hollywood career” (Edelstein, 2017). Her topless photoshoot for Vanity Fair also raised suspicion.   

Nevertheless, it did not take a toll on her advocacy. She became the ambassador of Camfed International, a movement to educate girls in rural Africa. Watson lately co-authored with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the UN under-secretary general and executive director of UN Women; Katja Iversen, the president/CEO of Women Deliver; and Michael Kaufman, the co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign an article for The Guardian accepting to participate to the formation of a G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council for the G7 member countries. The authors encouraged all governments to have a feminist foreign policy and by 2025 significantly increase funding to help women´s led organisations.  

Apart from being the face of major fashion outlets, Watson is also a concerned fashion enthusiast who announced in 2009 that she was working with a fashion label promoting fair trade.  

Watson is one of the few women in performing arts who leveraged her high-profile status to bring women´s rights and gender equality to the fore front.   

Written by Claire Davis, WAVE Intern 

Sources 

Edelstein, JE. Emma Watson: feminist to the core or a carefully polished brand?. The Guardian. 2017.https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/mar/12/emma-watson-feminist-or-polished-brand  

Emma Watson Biography. 2019. https://www.biography.com/actor/emma-watson 

Emma Watson: Gender equality is your issue too. 2014. https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/9/emma-watson-gender-equality-is-your-issue-too 

Watson E, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Katja Iversen, Michael Kaufman. Every G7 country should have a feminist foreign policy. 2019.  https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/aug/22/every-g7-country-should-have-a-feminist-foreign-policy-emma-watson